Vanuatu is a small island nation in Melanesia, which is not very well known. Not many people know that this is where bungee jumping has come from. It’s part of an ancient ritual performed by the local people called ‘the Naghol’.
The ritual sees young men jumping of a wooden structures with only two vines, which reach almost to the ground, tied to their ankles.
It is associated with good health during the wet season, signifies their masculinity and can be a rite of passage for boys. Though not all men participate, and those who don’t are not considered weak or cowards. It is believed the ritual is actually based on the legend of a woman who tied vines to her ankles and jumped out of a tree and survived.
When you witness the ritual you can see the men actually hit the sand, which is loosened beforehand to minimise their impact. Once they’ve jumped, the audience cheers loudly, and the party commences.
David Attenborough brought fame to the ritual in 1950 with his BBC documentary about the ‘land divers’ of Vanuatu.
It is still practised and has become a tourist attraction, though it is regulated and no longer allowed to be filmed commercially. You can go and watch it happen on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu, to the north-east of Australia. It’s quite gut-wrenching to experience…